I’ve noticed something ever since I made the shift from drinking my coffee with cream and sugar to drinking it in its own natural black goodness: I can taste the coffee now. Not only can I taste the coffee, but that which once seemed tasteless and bitter, well, isn’t. It has notes of flavors and aromatic hints that make the olfactory nerves dance and the taste buds sing.
But as I watched those around me continue to reach for the creamer at an alarming rate, I came to a realization: for them, coffee was simply the caffeinated carrier of their sugary flavors.
They weren’t interested in the hints and notes. They were interested in the elimination of baggy eyes. If the flavor of the medium needed a little covering up, so be it: a little more sugar, a little more creamer, a little more milk and all would be right with the world (and don’t even get me started on the lady I saw last week at 7am drinking a venti Frappucino from Starbucks with more caramel and cream than, you know, coffee. Don’t kid yourself. That was a morning serving of ice cream).
At first, I found this amusing. After all, I had been delivered from their plight. I was no longer in the pursuit of the sweet flavors. I wanted the pure, undiluted good stuff. Let them ruin their coffee. Let them fail to appreciate its subtleties. I had the genuine article.
Now, as much as I love coffee (and make no mistake about it, I love my coffee), this wouldn’t serve as an appropriate post on a blog primarily geared toward theological discussion. However, as I was sitting in my office (drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee of course), I was struck:
How many in our churches value Christ and the church due to the value of Christ and the church? And how many value Christ and the church simply because of what has been added to “improve” the flavor?
Have they come to Christ because of the unsurpassing goodness of Christ, or are they in need of another “fix” and convinced that church is the best means by which they can receive it? Have we as pastors and church leaders made the church more about meeting felt needs and helping people where they are that we’ve failed to meet their most important need – salvation and satisfaction in the person of Jesus Christ?
Isn’t this part of Jesus’ rebuke to those who chased him after the feeding of the five thousand? They willingly follow Christ, but with the proper motivation. We may not have seen it in their actions, but Jesus saw their hearts.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
John 6:26-27 (ESV)
Perhaps what is needed in our day is that which was needed in that day: the rude realization that following Jesus isn’t enough if you’re following him for the wrong reasons. Our churches need to be places where needs are met. Our churches must be places where we meet people where they are, as they are, for who they are. But our churches must exist for something higher altogether. We must meet their most important need – salvation and satisfaction in the person of Jesus Christ.
Otherwise, they’re drinking all creamer and no coffee.